Indian nurses who survived Iraq look for jobs in Gulf

Less than four weeks after Sunni insurgents freed them in Iraq, the nurses who returned home after days of terror are already looking for new jobs in the Middle East.

Thiruvananthapuram: Less than four weeks after Sunni insurgents freed them in Iraq, the nurses who returned home after days of terror are already looking for new jobs in the Middle East.

But none of the 46 women, including one from Tamil Nadu, wants to return to Iraq, a country now caught up in a mindless civil war that shows no signs of ending soon.

J. Merena, who hails from Kottayam, is still busy going to various churches because she feels her safe return was made possible only by god. "My husband works in Qatar and our two small children study here. After this Iraqi ordeal, we have decided to live together," Merena told IANS.

"So I am applying for a job in Qatar. If I go there with our children, we can live as a family."

Merena will soon join a course to write the qualifying examination for a nurse`s job in Qatar.

Another nurse, Renu Balakrishnan, says the dreams she had when she took up work in Iraq remains unfulfilled -- the desire to earn a lot more than what a nurse can get in India.

She has always wanted to own a home in Kerala, wanted to help her eldest sister get married and provide a good life for a younger sister who is mentally challenged.

"If it was not for god, I doubt if I could have come back from Iraq," said the teary eyed Renu Balakrishnan. "I have no choice. I need to get another job in the Middle East."

It was on July 5 that the 46 nurses returned after a harrowing two weeks in Tikrit where Sunni insurgents who overran much of Iraq first confined them to a hospital and then forced them to go to Mosul.

That was when the nurses` Middle East dreams came crashing down.

With the Indian and Kerala governments doing all they could to ensure their freedom and safe return, their tragedy caught widespread attention in the country.

A Middle East-based Indian businessman, C.K. Menon, gave away Rs.3 lakh to the nurses since all of them had to forego a few months` salary in view of their hurried exit out of Iraq.

Some of the nurses had spent close to Rs.2 lakh to get work in Iraq. While some had spent a year there, many others reached there in February. Within months, they were caught in the Iraq crisis.

"Since we needed to repay loans we had taken, the money provided by Menon was a great help," said Sumi Jose, a nurse from Kothamangalam.

Businessman Atlas Ramachandran, who runs a string of hospitals and jewellery shops in the Middle East, has promised jobs to all the nurses at a salary of Omani Riyal 250.

Moved by their plight, the Dubai-based Aster DM Healthcare gave Rs.25,000 to each nurse and offered jobs at its hospitals in India and abroad, subject to eligibility.

Remya Jose, who hails from Kannur, told IANS that a nurse in the private sector in the Middle East can earn the equivalent of Rs.38,000-50,000. The salaries range between Rs.60,000 and Rs.85,000 in the government sector.

"Many of us are going to write the qualifying examination which is a pre-requisite for a nurse`s job in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE," said Jose.

The Kerala government has been reportedly told by the Iraq government that the two months salary the nurses lost in Iraq would be given to them.

"Every penny counts... We worked hard in Iraq. Like every human being, we too have a dream. We are still pursuing the dream," said Merena.

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